My ability to predict the future is amazing. even as a kid in college, my gifts of predictionwere so powerful that they created a paying job for me.
So today, fearless in my ignorance, I’ll look at what’s coming for the new year and beyond inpersonal technology. I’m comforted by the thought that a year from now, most of you won’t rememberanything I’m suggesting.
I was in the audience at the Comdex computer show in 1996 and then again in 1999 whenMicrosoft’s Bill Gates talked about the convergence of the computer and household devices such asthe television. Convergence soon became a buzzword. but there was more buzz than action.
Well, Gates was right – it just took a bit more than a decade for convergence to get rolling ina meaningful way. now, we’re seeing many products that attempt – with varying degrees of success -to marry your television, the Internet and your computer.
There are real products on the market – televisions with built-in Internet connectivity anddevices that stream movies and television shows to that big high-definition TV of yours.
The technology remains in its infancy. It promises, and to some degree delivers, the potentialto deliver content from around the world to your TV.
But questions and roadblocks remain – from legal questions about royalties for that content tothe ability of the Internet to handle the enormous bandwidth requirements that would be created ifmost of us start using the Net to stream video as routinely as turning on the TV.
What if you could carry a 70-inch TV screen in your shirt pocket?
You can. all it takes is a pair of goggles that beam the picture to your eyeballs. Hook thegoggles to your computer or laptop, put on the glasses, and you have a large, private screen.
You can watch bigger-than-life movies from your airline seat, lie in bed watching one moviewhile your spouse watches another, or work at a laptop with the world’s biggest screen.
But the image quality, at least with any I’ve tried, is disappointing. That’s going to changefast. Big-screen HDTVs won’t go away. but these goggles are going to change the way we watch TV anduse computers.
As video quality improves, the goggles will become common – no longer expensive novelties, but aroutine way to watch TV and work with computers.
Even with processing chips that offer speed that would have seemed like science fiction a fewyears ago, there’s a speed bump that holds back the performance of your desktop or laptopcomputer.
Most of your computer innards are made up of solid-state electronics that offer an almostunlimited potential for speed. the speed bump is the hard disk that stores your programs anddata.
Although hard disks today are both larger and faster than I would have ever thought possible,they’re reaching their speed limit. That’s because they are partially mechanical devices that relyon spinning magnetic platters to store and retrieve data.
That’s why you are seeing the first examples of computers that use flash drives – thesolid-state storage devices that have been common for years as keychain-size ways to carry datawith you. until recently, flash drives with enough storage to handle the duties now assigned to thehard disk have been too expensive.
But costs are dropping, and you’ll begin seeing more computers that use solid-state storagedevices. Replacing the mechanical hard disk with solid-state storage offers the potential for ahuge leap in computing speed. look for this to become more common in the next two or threeyears.
Credit and debit cards changed how we shop. It happened so long ago that it’s hard to rememberthe days when cash and checks were the only ways to pay.
But the cards will soon join cash and checks in the antique bin.
This won’t happen overnight. but you’ll someday say goodbye to the plastic variety we carrytoday and pay the cashier at the store at the click of a button from your cell phone or some otherdevice.
If plastic credit or debit cards are still used, they’ll have built-in near FieldCommunications, which eliminates the need to swipe your card. Data will be transmittedwirelessly.
All that is already possible, and happening to a tiny degree, but this is another infanttechnology. And it creates obvious security worries.
Bill Husted, a former Atlanta Journal-Constitution technology writer, can be reached at tecbud@. bellsouth.net